Inductees March of 1950 Bradley and City College of New York, then an eastern power known around the land as CCNY, produced a bit of collegiate basketball history that can never be repeated.
The two played in the championship game of both the National Invitational and the NCAA Tournaments. CCNY won both times. But that Bradley team, coached by Forddy Anderson and posting a 32-5 record, was the thing that legends are woven around.
Almost 41 years ago on the Hilltop, Anderson was in his second year as coach and after a 27-8 debut, had wondrous talent on hand. All-American center Paul Unruh (Toulon) was in his senior season along with Mike Chianakas (Eureka) and Dave Humerickhouse (Paris).
Billy Mann (Chicago) and Gene "Squeaky" Melchiorre (Highland Park) were juniors along with 6-foot-7 Elmer Behnke (Marengo), the largest player on the team, Charles "Bud"
Grover (Dundee) and Aaron Preece (Canton). Sophomores Jim Kelly (Peoria) and Fred Schlictman (Centralia) rounded out the core of the team.
The Braves went 27-3 in the regular season, losing only to Purdue in the dedication game of Robertson Fieldhouse, to Kentucky in the title game of the Sugar Bowl tournament and at Detroit in a Missouri Valley Conference game.
Very loyal to the NIT after playing in the first two in 1938 and 1939, Bradley first accepted an invitation from what had started out as the nation's No. 1 post-season tournament. Noting this, the NCAA selection committee somehow decided to pass up the Braves despite their glittering record. The resulting uproar changed minds, though, and Bradley, along with CCNY, ended up in both tournaments.
The NIT came first. After whipping Syracuse and St. John's of New York, Bradley fell 69-61 to CCNY in the championship game. Then came the NCAA. Facing huge Clyde Lovellette and Kansas in its first game, Bradley edged out a 59-57 win, then blitzed UCLA 73-59 and, in the semi-finals, edged Baylor 68-66.
In the rematch, CCNY won 71-68 but only after a controversial ending when Melchiorre was apparently fouled as he drove for the basket with BU trailing only 69-68 in the final seconds. Peoria movie houses showed the game and bitter finish and the "none-call" became infamous throughout the country.
Others who played on the team that historic season were Dino Melchiorre (Highland Park), Dick Mize (Wheaton), Clarence Christe (Peoria Manual), Don Alford (Peoria Woodruff), Don Schnake (Centralia), Jack Hills (Joliet) and former Bradley basketball coach Joe Stowell (Peoria Central).
March of 1950 Bradley and City College of New York, then an eastern power known around the land as CCNY, produced a bit of collegiate basketball history that can never be repeated.
A two-sport star (baseball and basketball) at both Limestone High School and Illinois Central College, Thome went on to a legendary baseball career as one of the top sluggers in Major League Baseball history. A 13th-round selection by the Cleveland Indians in 1989, Thome made his MLB debut in 1991. After a 22-year career with Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles, Thome ranks seventh in Major League history with 612 home runs and 24th with 1,699 runs batted in, while boasting a .276 career batting average. He was a five-time All-Star and received Most Valuable Player votes in nine different seasons. Thome helped Cleveland to World Series appearances in both 1995 and 1997 and he hit 17 career postseason home runs. Thome led the American League in slugging in 2002 (.677) and the National League with 47 home runs in 2003 and he received a 1996 Silver Slugger Award. Thome also was the 2006 Americal League Comeback Player of the Year. Recognized for his integrity, sportsmanship and community involvement, Thome received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in 2001 and 2004, as well as the 2002 Roberto Clemente Award and the 2004 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The Cleveland organization dedicated a statue of Thome outside Progressive Field following his official retirement in 2014.